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Author: Lindy West
Every so often a gutsy, vital book comes along that insists to be read, shared, and discussed. Shrill, a collection of essays by Lindy West, might just be that book for 2016. West is a writer best known for her part in the fat acceptance movement and for taking on the ugliest, most woman-hating parts of the internet. While many of these essays are political in nature, what shines throughout the book is her whip-smart sense of humour.
West tackles controversial, sensitive topics—being fat (her preferred descriptor), abortion, rape jokes—with fierce intelligence and unswerving honesty. In the essay “When Life Gives You Lemons” she writes of becoming pregnant while in an unhealthy, unstable relationship and the ways in which navigating an abortion is still so difficult for so many women. She writes: “The fact that abortion is still a taboo subject means opponents of abortion get to define it however suits them best. They can cast those of us who have had abortions as callous monstrosities, and seed fear in anyone who might need one by insisting that the procedure is always traumatic, always painful, always an impossible decision. Well, we’re not, and it’s not.”
But West has suffered for her forthrightness—the important thing is that she hasn’t allowed that to silence her. When she was mercilessly attacked online after appearing on a television debate about the effect of rape jokes on our society’s prevailing attitude towards rape, she responded by videoing herself reading out dozens of threats and insults, turning the tide back on her attackers. Or when a vile troll made a Twitter account pretending to be her deceased father and she succeeded in getting the troll to realise the error of his ways.
All that considered, it would be hard to believe that West started out as a comedy writer (she’s in awe of this herself). She is almost effortlessly funny, even when down in the muck with a subject that makes you question your faith in humanity. I laughed out loud throughout Shrill and that’s not something I would embellish. This book would be an enlightening and entertaining read for anyone—provided you don’t still think rape jokes are funny and not problematic at all!
We are all lucky to live in a world which has Lindy West in it.